Zoë Sonnenberg is a lifelong singer, frequent baker and a writer with a passion for supporting the performing arts. Relevant to this episode, she is also a PR professional with the agency Sacks & Co.
Zoë represents musicians and other types of artists. She and I have worked together to book some of her clients on this podcast, including Danielle Eva Schwob (Ep 147) and Evangeline Gentle (Ep 171).
With offices in LA, Nashville and New York, Sacks & Co has an international reputation for working with exceptionally talented individuals and organizations. Their clients include musicians, filmmakers, film producers, theater companies, arts presenters and entrepreneurial business ventures.
In this conversation, Zoë and I talk about how she got into the public relations business, what PR firms do for clients and what she looks for in a prospective client. Additionally, Zoë breaks down what a working relationship between her and the artists she represents looks like.
Mentioned in this Episode
- Confronting Limitations, Competition and Creating Opportunities —Danielle Eva Schwob (Ep 147)
- A Debut Album, Self-Doubt and Preserving Tenderness Within–Evangeline Gentle (Ep 172)
Bandzoogle members earn over $5M since pandemic began
Bandzoogle just announced that since March, artists have earned over $5.4 million in total revenue, commission-free, directly from their fans through their websites… selling music, merchandise, live stream tickets, subscriptions, sheet music, lyric books and more. That’s pretty dang cool. So stick around for a special offer at the end of this episode.
This is the Unstarving Musician podcast. I am your host Robonzo. This podcast features conversations with me, indie music artists and industry professionals. It’s all intended to help other indie music artists be better at marketing, business, the creative process and all the other things that empower us to do more of what we love. Make music.
Welcome to another episode. Thanks for letting me be in your earbuds or your ears or your speakers today. Hey, the Unstarving Musician is made possible through the generosity of listeners like you. If you love the podcast, please visit our sponsor page on UstarvingMusician.com/crowdsponsor to learn about the different ways that you can support the podcast.
My guest is a lifelong singer, a frequent baker, a writer with a passion for supporting the performing arts, skilled in script analysis coverage, dramaturgy–dramaturgy! Excuse me. That’s a new word for me and editing. Her name is Zoe Sonnenberg. She is with a PR firm called SacksCo, Sacks and Co. Most importantly for this podcast yeah, she is a PR professional. Zoe represents music and other types of artists. She and I’ve worked together to book some of her clients on this podcast, including Danielle Eva Schwob in episode 147, and Evangeline Gentle who was featured in Episode 171. I encourage you to check those both out. They were great conversations. Zoe has been with the agency SacksCo more than 20 years. That’s not right. I don’t think that’s right. I think I made a note here that SacksCo has been around more than 20 years, but I don’t know maybe she’s been there 20 years. I forget. It’s okay, though for the point of our conversation or that matters that much, but it seems hard to believe she’s pretty young. So SacksCo has offices in LA, Nashville and New York. They have an international reputation for working with exceptionally talented individuals and organizations. Their clients include musicians, filmmakers, film producers, theater companies, arts presenters, and entrepreneurial business ventures.
So real quick before we get to my convo with Zoe, you know that I am a big fan of Bandzoogle the all in one, one stop shop music platform for musicians and bands. You know this anyway, if you’ve listened to more than one episode. At the end of this episode, I’m going to share with you how you can get a sweet deal that includes a free trial and a discount on your first year; but here’s what I really wanted to say, why I brought them up here at this part of the podcast. Bandzoogle just announced that since March, artists have earned over 5.4 million in total revenue commissione free, directly from their fans through their websites, their Bandzoogle websites. And that was selling music, merchandise, livestream tickets, subscriptions, sheet music, lyric books and more. Tips even! That’s pretty dang cool. So stick around for a special offer at the end of this episode.
So here’s what Zoe and I talk about. We talk about how she got into the business, what PR firms do for their clients, including what she does for her clients, what she looks for in prospective clients and she kind of just breaks down the client relationship. Super informative, super nice person fun to talk to. Here is me and Zoe Sonnenberg.
Are you in New York?
Zoë Sonnenberg 3:56
So right now I’m actually in Chicago. Normally, I live in New York, but for the past few months, actually, I’ve been back in Chicago, which is where I grew up. Staying with my family, so it’s been, you know, nice to reconvene. But I’m going back to New York next week. It’ll be interesting to see what it’s like back after having been gone for a little while.
Yeah, I mean, have you, did you say you’ve not been back since? Um sorry, I’m trying to chew gum and listen at the same time. Did you say?
Zoë Sonnenberg 4:30
I haven’t been back in a few months. So I haven’t been back since early March.
Did you miss all the COVID drama there in the in-person part?
Zoë Sonnenberg 4:41
I escaped right as the drama was sort of developing. Yeah. And it was a you know, pretty good combo moment of the, you know, pandemic getting more intense and not knowing what that was going to look like, our office going remote indefinitely, and my roommate saying she was gonna go back to her family in California. And I was like, Well, I guess I’ll go to. And, you know, I’m like, very grateful to have been able to spend this time with my family. And I think it was really nice in a lot of ways. It’s also very surreal in others to be, you know, an adult in your childhood bedroom again, but… I’m grateful to have been able to be, you know, I’ve had been able to, you know, escape, so to speak in the first place, and then being able to come back is, also something I’m excited about.
That’s something else I, I guess fairly early on, I spoke with an author and editor at Forbes, that I’m kind of my contributor there as of late, and he’s been my guy for that and, but anyway, he’s in been in New York for much, maybe all of it, but it was a trip talking to him about it all. Has worked changed it all for you, during all this COVID stuff?
Zoë Sonnenberg 6:08
Yes, or no, in some ways, you know, right at the beginning, it certainly, you know, having everybody be remote is, it is a change. I’m just adjusting to doing all of your work from a laptop and setting up interviews, and having meetings only via zoom is, you know, just like a different structure than we normally work. But we, I would say, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that on the whole, like, business is still happening. And I think, you know, it’s challenging in a world where suddenly live events aren’t a thing.
Is that a huge part of the business for you?
Zoë Sonnenberg 6:53
A good part, I would say, because we work with mainly musicians, but also sort of performing artists more broadly. And, you know, I work I have musician clients, and also dance companies and presenting houses and arts, you know, nonprofits and things. And so, you know, various, sometimes we’ll work for, you know, a client’s, any project that they’re doing, sometimes it’ll be one particular event, sometimes it’ll be an album, release, etc. And so, obviously, things that were events all had to pivot or change, and some, you know; we’ve been able to do that really, really well. And some have just not been able to, you know, some types of events can become like hybrids of an online in person, you know, some of our… We work with the lower Manhattan Cultural Council who do a festival called River to River every summer. It’s like an outdoor arts festival, and so they were able to make that still happen, pretty miraculously, but you know, just a shifted version of what the initial concept of that was going to be, but because it’s outside, they, you know, stuck to mainly visual art pieces that people can go visit from a safe social distance. You know, we’re still able to have events like that, but, you know, we’ll do a lot of tour press, and touring is not really happening. So a lot of our work with musicians is, you know, album releases and things like that Now,
Have you always worked? Or have you worked exclusively with musicians in your time and Sacks and Co?
Zoë Sonnenberg 8:37
No, I work with some musicians, I would say, personally, I would work I’ve worked with about two thirds musicians and one third, other arts groups more broadly.
Okay, cool. Well, I’m doing a little improvising. Since we’re, since I’m trying the video today. I’m afraid to bring my notes up on screen as I normally do, because I don’t think I chose just you and me, so; but I know that I did want to ask you how it came to be that you were working with SacksCo?
Zoë Sonnenberg 9:12
Totally. So I graduated from I graduated from college in 2018.
From Stanford, I saw that.
Zoë Sonnenberg 9:21
From Stanford, I graduated. Nice. And I knew that I wanted to work in arts and with particularly performing artists. And I was sort of on the hunt for a job that would allow me to be working with artists and also allow me to use my writing skills. And so I spent about a year after graduation, I flew straight from graduating to New York. I was like, we’re gonna go do it like, you know, now’s the time and I had grown up in Chicago so I, you know, knew how to live in a city and I figured you know, if there’s ever a time to go take yourself to New York, it’s now. So I did that, and I spent about a year working various internships mostly at theatres, and where I would work in their literary and artistic departments, which a lot of what I was doing was working with scripts, where I’d be sort of like reviewing scripts that came in and seeing, you know, sort of helping the theater process those for consideration. And I was also doing a lot of part time gigs and anything from, you know, ushering to cat-sitting to sit, you know, like, working for like a venue, like I did a lot of various things. And was very fortunate that I was able to find the listing for the job I have now, through a former member of the choir that I sing with in New York, who sent out the listing to our, you know, sort of wider choir community and said, a friend of mine is looking for someone to join their company, they do music and arts, PR, like, here’s a description. And I was reading it. And I was like, this is everything I wanted a job, like this is the opportunity to work with really amazing artists, the opportunity to write every day, and the opportunity to be creative in a day to day setting. And so I applied and ended up getting that job and have been there since.
How cool. So I want to back up and ask something that I wasn’t planning to ask, but because you have a Bachelor of Arts in English and I know there was a minor in forgive me, because I don’t have it in front of me anymore, but it’s like theater and related stuff.
Zoë Sonnenberg 11:52
Yeah, theatre and performance studies, yeah.
Ok, I couldn’t remember what it was called. What did your parents do? For work…
Zoë Sonnenberg 11:58
My parents were psychologists? Um, I… My mom is a therapist, my dad does research for psychiatric medications. [Okay.] Um, yeah.
I asked, I have a not too dissimilar degree. And, but I was looking at you, I was actually looking at your LinkedIn today, sent you connect request, by the way. And I’m like, I’m telling, I’m telling my wife, I’m like, Oh look at this, this gal has a BA and she went straight into her vocation. Look at that. And she’s working for this great company. And I was saying all this because I have a similar degree been kind of fumbling about doing different things in my life. So but I’ll have a great, I’ll have this great book someday, of all the things I failed at and learned from, like,
Zoë Sonnenberg 12:48
I think it’s also, you know, I feel very grateful that I was able to get this job so quickly. On the other hand, in the year that I was working a lot of part time jobs and internships and cobbling things together, I felt very panicked and was like, I’ll never, you know, will I ever have a career that is, you know, stable in any grand sense. And I am very grateful that my, you know, I thought the, the leading question is going to be, you know, how do your parents feel about you working in arts? Because I get that question a lot. And I am very grateful that my parents are very supportive. And I think in part, they’re supportive, because I was able to be like, look I got a job, and I’m paid, and it’s real, like, I swear, and they’re like, Great, that’s awesome.
We knew you could do it.
Zoë Sonnenberg 13:33
Right? Right. They’re like, Oh, cool. That was good proof. But also, I’m very grateful that my parents both love music. So they really understand the deep draw of that, and a deep draw of working with artists and with musicians, and I am very lucky that they are I say, able to understand that framework and that feeling. And I think it also, I think, you know, loving music and seeing a lot of concerts and, you know, being involved like reading music press, things like that, like they know that it’s a world that exists so they can see how the job fits into it.
Sure, understand, that’s cool. And what did your bosses say, by the way, or your boss say about you coming onto the podcast to talk to me? I know that you were gonna say, Well, I don’t know what the policy is. But let me check it out.
Zoë Sonnenberg 14:21
Yeah, they weren’t totally happy with it. I figured, you know, I had never been asked to be interviewed as a PR person. So I figured I ought to check. But they were totally down. They were like, how lovely go, you know, take the interview.
I’m happy. I’m happy. Yeah, I’m happy.
Zoë Sonnenberg 14:38
I have another PR professional that has been threatening for months now to come on the podcast, you know, finally scheduled and she’s rescheduled and she’s rescheduled. So but I think later this month, maybe next we’re supposed to speak, but I thought you know, I talked to you a fair amount.
Zoë Sonnenberg 14:57
Yeah, perfect. Well I’m happy to and it’s also, you know, I could see how it be an interesting part of your podcast in particular, because it’s all about sort of, how do you make a career in this? And what does that look like? And this is one corner of that larger universe.
Yeah, absolutely. So, you’ve talked about interviews that you do, is that are those largely with clients? For? Are they discovery interviews? Or what types of interviews are they?
Zoë Sonnenberg 15:25
I think I spoke unclearly. Um, it’s, I don’t tend to conduct interviews, but a large part of my job is organizing interviews, you know, in any campaign, and certainly I do a lot of, you know, zoom calls and conversations and might be on with people while they’re interviewing. One of the things that is like, newly challenging in the zoom-ness of it all is like, typically, in the, you know, before-times, we’d set up an interview, we’d have people come into the office, we’d be there if they need anything, but you’re not necessarily like having to be in the room with them. So you can sort of afford that privacy, you know, you go like, you guys go take this office, like, I’ll be out here, let me know if you need anything. We can keep tabs on time, etc. But that’s much harder to do virtually. So you either have to be like, I’m on mute in the corner, like, just silent, or, you know, it comes down to people’s preference and some, some clients and some interviewers want you in the room, some don’t. So, sometimes you just send a lot more emails being like, how did it go?
We do a lot of that. Right?
Zoë Sonnenberg 16:29
Right. Exactly. Just like yeah, like, how was it? Like, you tell me, so I think you know, you find the way that works. Um, but yeah, I don’t do a lot of interviewing myself.
Okay. Yeah. I misunderstood. I was I was smiling a lot as you were saying those things because I was thinking, All right, I’m getting some young people speak here. You said zoom-ness and you said before-times, which I think I’ve heard before, but they just kind of made me laugh a little. So I was looking at SacksCo’s client list today. Quite impressive, by the way. And I kind of got a glimpse at one accidentally because you had a you had an autoresponder on while you were doing something. And I saw, For inquiries about so-and-so I was like, what? Anyway, I was looking at the, at the the larger client list today. It’s very diverse. And the types of clients that you handle goes way outside of music, but all over the arts and technology and stuff, too. And I just thought I’d throw that out there for people listening, who maybe didn’t listen to the intro in which I’ll probably say that much as well. But what do you and your co workers, your team look for in clients that are music artists?
Zoë Sonnenberg 17:43
Great question. Uh, I want to think about that for a second. What do we look for? Because in certain ways, it’s hard to articulate, you know, you’re looking for…
So let me just say, Yeah, they have to have really killer music. I understand. Yeah. I’m assuming that you prefer, if not expect to have some sort of brand going on. But…
Zoë Sonnenberg 18:08
Yeah, typically, I mean, but we do take clients who, you know, we have clients across the spectrum of, you know, where they are in their career, like we work with people who are, you know, coming out with their debut EP. And we also work with people who are, you know, rereleasing, REM’s next, you know, Monster re-edition, like, and it’s one of the things I really like about working at Sacks is that I get to exercise a lot of parts of my brain on a lot of different types of projects. And it’s something that I really admire about Carla, the woman who runs our company, is I think she’s very good at pairing people to their project. Because I think she finds she knows her staff, and she can read into what the projects that she’s being presented are, and can make really harmonious pairings. Because there’s an aspect to which you know, it’s a social job. You’re doing a lot of, you know, interacting, and you have to be able to understand what it is that the client wants, and what it is that the journalist needs and what it is that you have to do to get those two worlds on the same page. And Carla’s really good at matching that process.
It’s a great skill.
Zoë Sonnenberg 19:48
Yeah, it’s a it’s an impressive skill. It’s something I’m grateful to have the opportunity to keep watching and learning from. But yeah, but more broadly answer the question of what do we look for, I mean, I think you know, it’s it is all of the things you mentioned, like, great talent, great music, great, you know, some sense of identity, you know, if not necessarily to use the term brand, but it’s not wrong, per se. And then also, you know what it is, like, it’s helpful to get words from the artists themselves. So we know who they are as a person, you know, we like getting to talk to somebody or getting to at least, you know, speak with their team and know, what is it that, like, it’s one of my favorite parts of the campaign is at the beginning. And we get to, you know, have a call or have a meeting with the client themselves and be, you know, get to hear in their own voice, what it is they’re trying to get out into the world. And then it’s really helpful and exciting to be able to be like, okay, like, here’s what you’re telling me, here’s how I’m going to like, process that information, and then be able to share it with other people. And mostly, you just have to find, you know, you find things to get excited about, if we’re not excited about something. It’s hard to get other people excited about it, which is ultimately the crux of our job. So, [Yeah.] we take clients we’re excited about.
Yeah, I guess that goes back to the age old advice of look for people who believe in what you do. [Yeah.] To be around and, and support you. And part of that believing, I guess, is like you said that you get excited about what what a client is doing. Do you find yourselves helping a client shape the story, the narrative, more so with some clients than with others? Because I assume you, as I started to ask, I assume you do that all the time. But are there some clients that really have it kind of dialed in? You’re like, this is beautiful, you know, I’m gonna try and use as much of that as I can.
Zoë Sonnenberg 21:52
Yeah, absolutely. Some people come in, I mean, it varies so much product or project to project, you know, some people come in with long histories of, you know, whatever version of their story they’re telling, and we sort of pick that up and keep running with it. Some people come in, and, you know, like I said, maybe it’s their first, you know, professionally produced EP, and they’re like, you know, you help me come up with what my story is. And we are, you know, come up with isn’t even the right terminology, because everybody has one, it’s sort of about drawing out what that story is in a way that people are going to hear well. I don’t know if that makes sense. But…
I understand. It’s like you’re helping them develop, sometimes you’re helping them develop their story for refining, maybe.
Zoë Sonnenberg 22:47
It really varies, project to project. Yeah. In terms of how much we do that?
Yeah. Well, I assumed and it’s good to know that. It’s not, I had these preconceptions in my mind that a lot of this stuff has to be figured out by the client before you even talk to them. But in your world, there’s a lot of discovery, a lot of just figuring out how you adapt and work best with a particular client that you believe in.
Yeah. For those that are thinking, you know, people keep telling me I need to get some PR help. What would you tell to the novice, the total novice, what would you say to the question, “What does a PR do for music artists a PR rep do for music artists?
Zoë Sonnenberg 23:30
If… My party line is always, we are the conduit between the artist and the rest of the world. So we are there to help translate the vision of the artist who has something they want to share and has something they want to get out. And we’re there to help sort of harness that and help get other people as excited as we are about a project. So we’ll get you know, and it can be any kind of project in any phase. But PR is basically there to be a support network, and to be someone who can, you know, sort of help be a megaphone for the project so that the artist can spend more of their time and energy being themselves and creating their work.
And I presume that they’re in, even in an ideal world, working with a company like Sacks Co that there might still be some channels that an artist would behoove themselves to be familiar with for getting the word out, as you say. So I want to ask what, what are the channels that you work with for your artists, like a music artists for example, what are the channels that you try to help them hit and where are some of the gaps that you try to help them understand that, you know, they might need some help? You know, we might need some outside help if we’re working together on?
Zoë Sonnenberg 24:59
Yeah. So there’s I mean, broadly, the channels are print, online and broadcast. There are, you know, and again, sort of how much we work within each of these depends on the project, sometimes people will bring on a, you know, separate person to do radio PR, or the label might have someone who does that, or, you know, someone might have a social media manager, which is sort of a newer and different type of PR function. I’m, like, we don’t run anybody’s social media for them. But sometimes we will suggest, like, retweet this, you know, Pitchfork wrote an article about you like, or, you know, we might help people set up Instagram Live interviews or things like that. Um, but broadly, it’s, you know, there are print outlets that are, you know, New York Times, Rolling Stone you know, even, you know, dance and art publications, things like that. There are online publications, the world of podcasts is sort of somewhere in between the broadcast and online worlds, because some, you know, any podcast through NPR, would be under broadcast, because often they’re also broadcast on air. But, or at least sort of run through the NPR network.
Zoë Sonnenberg 26:33
Um, and you know, we try to make sure that our clients get representation, all of those fields. Um, and, you know, we will also tailor to a project, if there’s, you know, a particular interest that we’re like, oh, you know, so and so is a, you know, young woman, singer, songwriter, then we’ll start hitting like, you know, outlets about young women, singer songwriters. Um, you know, there’s a lot, there are a lot of interesting niches that we like, find spots for as well. And that, you know, and those are often really good ways to get people as excited about a project as you are, because, you know, they come into it with a predisposition to be excited about the type of artists you’re bringing to them.
Sure. Do, you know, speaking of podcasts being sort of in an in between place, do you find any challenges and working with them in terms of, you know, trying to get one to be responsive or to agree to have one of your clients on,
Zoë Sonnenberg 27:37
It totally depends. And I know that that keeps being my party line, but it is true, you know, a lot of this job is so project dependent. But, uh, you know, in some, and it also depends on who you’re working with, like, you know, I have found working with you to be very pleasant, and you’re very responsive, and that’s very helpful. And some people are not always as responsive. And then you’re like, Well, okay, um, you know, I joke, sometimes a part of my job feels like shouting into the void, because we’re just like, okay, world, like, here’s a new project, and you like, shout it out there. And sometimes the void shouts back, and sometimes the void doesn’t shout back. So you have to pivot and try a different corner of the void until eventually you do start getting the echo response, you know, yeah, and, but podcasts are also and I will say, you know, in the COVID era, it’s really interesting to see how podcasts have become really instrumental, because it’s a way that people can do interviews that inherently doesn’t have to be in person. So, you know, if you get to people and you know, we might suggest like, hey, client, you know, set yourself up in a nice corner of your room and, you know, get a microphone if you have one and set things up. So you know, you put your lighting, but otherwise, you know, you’re able to get to a lot of people. And podcast, audiences also tend to be really excited about what they hear because much like tuning into a super, you know, specific niche outlet on print or online. You know, people are tuning in, because they’re like, I love Song Exploder. And I want to hear the breakdown of every, you know, little part of this song, and I want to hear the artist talk about it. So you’ve got an audience who’s coming in already excited, which is also really nice.
Yeah, yeah. I actually was listening to a podcast about podcasting. That’s not actually the theme of the podcast, but this episode happened to be. Yeah, this episode happened to be an interview with a guy who has a podcast that’s, I think he’s like 700 episodes, and he started in 2017. And he’s had really good success. He has a great marketing background, which was super instrumental. He kind of treated it like he would many other projects that he’s worked on in the past that’s worked well with him. But he just happened to, I guess the question came up about, you know, getting contacted by PR people and others. And I remember possibly about the time that you and I connected, I felt like I was getting contacted by several at once or like getting a few hits. I’m like, What happened? I did, by the way, happened to hear him say that he’d gotten on some sort of bulletin board or something on his podcast. But but it was interesting to me, he said, that he, he didn’t really enjoy working with PR people. There was, there was one part about the layer in between his guest and him. Now, he’s, he’s done a really nice thing and develop some great relationships such that he’s getting so many referrals for guests. He’s wisely, you know, looked at his guest as one of his customers, which is a smart thing to do. But there was something else about the engagement. I wish I could remember. And I thought to myself, well, that’s not really how it’s been for me. And I know he’s, he has to be an organized person, because he’s all about systems, because he’s been in marketing and stuff. So I don’t know. But yeah, our, I think I’ve dealt with three different, maybe four different agencies. I think the others outside of yours have been on more on the boutique side. But the engagements that I’ve had all with women, I think.
Zoë Sonnenberg 31:30
There are a lot of women in PR.
Yeah, well, then then it may say something to the engagements been, about the engagement. It’s been good, it’s been organized, and everything. And I guess, for people that are sort of listening, from the indie artists perspective, and maybe you work with a PR person, or you are a PR person listening to this, and you’re trying to figure out the whole, like getting to podcasts, as an indie podcast for myself, for me, I, I confess, and I do it kind of publicly on my website, you know that I need help, too. So I’m definitely giving higher consideration of people who have some certain things happening, like they have an online presence, a social presence, definite bonus, not necessarily a showstopper. And then there is also this thing that I think everyone goes through, I assume, who’s dealing in the world of music or arts, but something that I heard or saw just really got me excited the first time I saw it, and I’m sort of just had this general rule. And I’m kind of just saying this for anyone who’s who might listen this, like, “Why hasn’t he invited me on?” I kind of have this general rule. If I have to sit and think about it for a few minutes, I kind of pass on it oftenl often temporarily. So I have a I have a nice system for bringing things back into my queue to just look at one more time. But um, yeah, that’s how it’s been been for me, but working with you and I met, I think I’ve worked with one other person from Sacks Co and I’m forgetting who that is. But it’s been a good experience for me. So if you’re a podcaster…
Zoë Sonnenberg 32:56
Sure I think, you know, and there’s something interesting, you mentioned about the, you know, people’s hesitation around PR folks, because they sort of create a boundary between journalists, the artist, and I think, ideally, you know, we work very hard not to be that person. And I think that, you know, in great PR doesn’t feel like there’s a boundary, it just feels like it’s someone who’s able to make that connection for you. And then allow that conversation to be a really genuine one between the journalist and the artist. And you know, the PR person is there if anybody needs help or needs extra questions, or, you know, if the journalist is like, “Sorry, how do you spell their middle name?” You know, we can provide information, which, in a lot of ways, ideally unfettered the conversation where they don’t have to say, like, Can you tell me how to spell your middle name, you know, they can have a conversation about the work.
That’s good to know. Because I, no it’s good to know because I perceived it as a bit of a barrier, but in the sense that, you know, we both want you to work through through me, you know, you you in this case, on all these things that I’m clearly contacting you about. You know, it’s sort of to me it’s been tacitly implied that you know, we prefer you not go around me but there’s been a couple times like I think it was you or it could have been another PR person I was working with where we had an artist that I sent a little Thank You something to, and they’re like she wanted to know how you got her address, and I laughed and replied, was this you and I said she gave it to me because she’d forgotten, but so it’s good to know though. I have tried, because of my perception, I’m trying to be respectful of that. But you know that I always have such a pleasant time with my guests. Unless I was just having a hard time drawing out conversation, which I try not to put off entirely on my guests. Sometimes I know it’s a little bit them and it’s a lot me. It’s kind of my job right to get em, get em to be talkative, but. So, anyway, good to know,
Zoë Sonnenberg 35:06
There’s an art to it.
For sure. And you know, the other funny thing is I’m been testing out a transcription service. And working on a process for it to have a production assistant help me in the most efficient way possible, I kind of want to see how it worked. And it is amazing. When you’re using a service that lets you listen to and read the words that are hap… that were happening, you just hear it in a completely different light. So you call it an art I know, you know, I’m, I’m really guilty of saying things like, you know, and, um, and I, I try not to let all that stuff get edited out for my own, you know, feedback loop, if you will. Now I have a new production guy who I know is dying to get in there and just clean that all up and make me sound a little more pro. But it does make you wonder how well spoken are all of these people that I hear. Are they professionally edited to such a degree that I don’t really know?
Zoë Sonnenberg 35:59
And it’s so different project to project and like production company to production company, but it is so funny, you know, I have also had opportunity to read transcripts. And it’s like, is that what I sound like?
Zoë Sonnenberg 36:11
You get it and you think, you know, the way that people write and the way that people speak are two completely different cadences, two completely different tones, two completely different syntaxes. And when people are listening, you know, likewise, when people speak, the way that they write, it doesn’t sound natural. You know, it sounds scripted. Mm hmm. So there’s a happy medium, I think to be found in the, you know, allowing some of the likes and ums to stay, and not having that be more than you know, you don’t want the filler words to be more than the content.
Yeah, yeah. Well, there’s plenty of ums and you knows and things like that. In my podcast, well, is there anything that we didn’t talk about already, that you could impart upon budding artists, or maybe artists that have a new project out? I don’t know, if it’s common that they might, you know, an artist with previous experience would struggle, and it may vary depending on how long of a gap in time they might have experienced from one project to another how long they’ve been in the business, but do you have anything that you could share that might be helpful, inspirational or encouraging otherwise?
Zoë Sonnenberg 37:31
Yeah, let me think of how to phrase what I want to say. The most important thing for an artist is that they believe in their work genuinely. And you can tell when someone is creating a piece of art that they’re crafting, because they think it will sell, you know, it doesn’t feel genuine, it doesn’t feel exciting and feels sellable. So, but not necessarily. But that’s, you know, it becomes its own worst enemy, when people listen, and they’re like, cool. So this sounds like things they hear on the radio, or, you know, come up on top hundred lists, or, you know, this will fit really squarely into, you know, a Spotify, insert genre playlist. But there is something about a really exciting record that you hear and you know, and you know, somebody crafted that and put soul into it. And those are the types of projects that we’d like taking, because you get really excited about that, and you want to share that with people. And you know, certainly I will say from a PR perspective, it’s helpful when artists are willing to talk about their work just because, you know, people don’t like, again, our job is PR is to bring the artists and the journalists together, they don’t, with I would say maybe this exception, want to hear the PR person speak all that much. So your job is to be like, let me bring you to the artist. And when the artists like speaking about their work, it’s great because you get to be like, this person’s a fun interview, you know? [Mm hmm.] So is it like is is interested in connecting with you? Um, because ultimately, music is about connection. You’re trying to put emotion into a vessel that other people will feel and and you know what more beautiful project is there in the in the world than that?
Yeah. I think that’s wonderful advice, though. I’m not sure this really applies to everyone or necessarily everyone’s situation when they’re creating a new piece of art or a song or whatever. But the, my first thought as you started articulating was that perhaps one of the first things you can do is just forget about what everybody else is doing. And you know, like all your peers,
Zoë Sonnenberg 40:07
Absolutely. Trying to fit yourself preemptively into some kind of box is never going to help you. And other people will always do that work for you. Regardless of whether you hire a PR company, [Yeah.] Um, you know, that is human nature to try to fit people into categories. Doing that work before, you know, it’s like, people talk a lot in to writers about turning off your self-editor. Like don’t don’t edit yourself before you’ve created something. Create something and then, you know, edit, refine, put it where it needs to be help it elevate itself. But if you do that, before your work is even completed, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
Yeah, yeah, I can see that. Definitely. Definitely, let someone else help you [Yeah.] kill the parts that along the way that can that can be…
Zoë Sonnenberg 41:08
Exactly. You know, beautiful. Like, no piece of art ever comes out, fully formed and ready to go on the first draft? No press release does, you know, we have to do editing is a huge part of our job. And I think it’s a huge part of any creative process.
Zoë Sonnenberg 41:30
But shouldn’t stop you from writing something in the first place or something that feels genuine, and then you refine it to pull the best parts out.
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I agree. And, Okay, one more. I was thinking. Who are? what types of clients? What types of people do you personally like, kind of fit into your niche? Do you personally enjoy working with the most? What are the things, characteristics that just resonate for you almost every time? Have you seen a pattern?
Zoë Sonnenberg 42:03
That’s a good question. I don’t know if I would pick a particular pattern. Um, I would say, I think because I come from a background in theater and music. From like an educational standpoint, I think I tend to often get put with clients who have a lot of like musical training, because we can, you know, sort of speak in the same language about their work. But I wouldn’t say that’s a prerequisite. Nor would I say that’s true of all of my clients. But if I had to draw a pattern between, like a large swath of them, it might be that, but that’s personal. I mean, I think and I think that’s Carla trying to make, you know, harmonious pairings and saying, like, “Oh, you know, how to speak this language like, so to these clients, they’re going to be happy.” You’re like talking about their chord progression and like, you’re gonna be happy that they know how to have those conversations too like, I’m genuinely I mean, not to sound like a broken record, but I think clients who are excited about their own work and who are excited to share it with people. Yeah, make me excited, like, I am an inherently extroverted person. I like talking to people I like, you know, getting energized with other people. So when you’re working with a client who’s stoked about their project, it’s really easy to get stoked about their project. And to really want to, you know, shout about it from the rooftops and get people to talk about it with you. And with them.
Yeah, I’ve seen this. My most recent firsthand up close experience with it was with an artist who I met through the podcast, his name’s Johnny Burgin. He’s a blues player. And he actually came to Panama to do predominantly to do a house concert with me. But we did some other things while he was here. But even before I met him in person, his passion for blues and what he’s been doing is so real. And just it’s a it’s it’s beautiful when somebody’s so excited about what they’re doing. And not not that it hasn’t come without its frustrations for sure. He’s been doing it for a while. And you know, he…
Zoë Sonnenberg 44:22
But it’s an infectious.
Yes, it really is. Really, you feel like you’re around something, someone special, you know, when you get the opportunity. So…
Zoë Sonnenberg 44:29
Exactly. There’s something intangible about that, that everybody loves. It’s charisma in part. It’s, you know appeal. It’s a lot of things. But it’s so exciting when you get that energy from someone and you’re just like, I want to be wherever they are.
Yeah, yeah. Well, Zoe, thank you for spending time with me. I hope that we continue the working relationship we’ve had. I’ve met some wonderful artists through you and have had some great episodes because of it. Always enjoy… It’s nice to see you in person and feel like we’re almost in the same.
Zoë Sonnenberg 45:06
It’s so good to put a name to a face.
Yeah. Well tell the bosses I said thank you for you know, authorizing the appearance on the podcast.
Zoë Sonnenberg 45:17
Thank you for having me on here. It’s so nice to get to speak about what I do.
Zoë Sonnenberg 45:22
You too, ciao.
This episode was powered by Bandzoogle are the easiest all in one professional website platform for musicians and bands. Two things that will help ensure you’re in control of your music business and your fan base community are a website and an email list. Bandzoogle can help you do both. Plus a solid website makes you look legit! Serious musicians, singers, songwriters, composers and performers noticed to be true. If you don’t yet have your own website. Check out Bandzoogle. It was created by musicians for musicians. I use it and I love it. It’s as easy as easy to use gets and you don’t have to worry about plugin updates. security patches Bandzoogle takes care of all that for you. The features and support are both incredible. See for yourself, go to Bandzoogle com to start a 30-day free trial and use the promo code Robonzo to get 15% off your first year plans start at just $8.29 a month. That’s Bandzoogle.com promo code Robonzo R O B O N Z O to start your free trial today.
This episode was powered by ConvertKit. I have been to ConvertKit users since early 2016. And I really love it for the email marketing aspects of what I do. It’s more than just an email marketing company though. They are focused on landing pages to giving beginner creators everything they need to start building their email lists. Their new free plan allows creators to make unlimited landing pages and forms and you can choose from multiple templates. personalize them with design. include an incentive email, create a thank you page, manage all your subscribers and of course send broadcast emails. The support is great. And that is important to me to learn how ConvertKit can help you connect with your audience so that you can make a living doing work you love, go to UnstarvingMusician.com/Convert or the Show Notes for this episode.
Did you know you can help other independent artists find this podcast by subscribing on Apple podcast or wherever you are listening to your podcast these days. It really does help, so I hope you will consider it. And if you have feedback, please go to UnstarvingMusician.com to get all my contact info, you can text me call me email me leave a voice message right there on that page, just go down to the bottom of the page and you’ll find everything you need to know I really would love to hear any of your comments, suggestions, questions, whatever you’ve got. And you can find links to just about everything talked about in this episode at UnstarvingMusician .com/Podcast. All right, I’m peacing out. Thank you for listening and sharing with your musician friends and fellow indie music, fans. Peace, gratitude and a whole lot of love.
Support the Podcast
The Unstarving Musician exists solely through the generosity of its listeners, readers, and viewers.
Visit our Crowd Sponsor page to learn how you can offer your support.
- The Unstarving Musician’s Guide to Getting Paid Gigs, by Robonzo
- Bandzoogle– The all-in-one platform that makes it easy to build a beautiful website for your music
- The Musician’s Profit Path: The 5-Stage Blueprint To Create Massive Growth In Your Fan Base and Sustainable Income For Your Music Career, by Bree Noble
- No Booker, No Bouncer, No Bartender: How I Made $25K On A 2-Month House Concert Tour, by Shannon Curtis
Visit my Resources page for more musician resources.
Pardon the Interruption (Disclosure)
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means I make a small commission, at no extra charge to you, if you purchase using those links. Thanks for your support!
This episode is brought to you by Bandzoogle.
From garage bands to Grammy winners, Bandzoogle powers the websites for thousands of musicians around the world.
Plans start at just $8.29/month, which includes hosting and your own free custom domain name. Go to Bandzoogle.com to start your 30 day free trial. Use promo code “robonzo” to get 15% off the first year of any subscription.
[…] was brought to my attention by Zoë Sonnenberg (featured in episode 180). At the time of our conversation, Oct 2020, the pandemic was nearing its peak crisis status in the […]
Hi there, You’ve performed a great job. I’ll certainly digg it and
in my opinion recommend to my friends. I am sure they’ll be benefited from this
I believe this internet site holds some very wonderful info
for everyone :D.